Monday, March 27, 2017

A dream come true!

              A Couple of years after I got to know Mr.Patankar ( Sampark) as a Rural specialist I had a dream. In the dream I visit Kolhapur on an invitation from Patankar and discover that he lives in a big palace with a river running behind the house. During my recent re-union trip to Kolhapur I found that my dream was not far from reality.

It was a re-union meeting with a difference. A get-together of four stalwarts of Rural marketing who had started the `Rural Network` in 2002 as a  business idea which paved the way for starting the Rural Marketing Association of India in 2005. Since my retirement from  active professional life and after publishing  my auto biography, I have developed a keen desire to meet old friends from different walks of life who have crossed my path at different stages. When I mooted the idea, Mr.Patankar ( Sampark) promptly extended an invitation to the group consisting of Pradeep Kashyap( Mart) and Pradeep Lokhande ( Rural Relations) and I ( Anugrah Madison) to visit Kolhapur during the third week-end in March, promising a good time. We accepted the invitation with pleasure and  were not disappointed. Though Lokhande could not join us at the last minute because of his mother`s critical  health, Kashyap & I visited his home in Pune,  to pay our respects to his mother,  on our way to Kolhapur.  Inspite of the tension at home Lokhande hosted a High Tea for us which Kashyap & I immensely relished.

After a pleasant four hour drive from Poona to Kolhapur,  with a stop over for `Vada Paav  & Mishal` lunch on the way, Kashyap & I checked into Hotel Atria where we were Patankar`s special guests. Once we reached Kolhapur,   we were recipients of the overwhelming hospitality extended to us by the genial and friendly Bal or Ram as Patankar is known among his near and dear ones. Patankar who belongs to a  Princely family of Kolhapur, lives in a beautiful palace with the  families of his two sons.  It was close to what I saw in my dream. The palace belonging to his mother`s family  was  built by a British architect 103 years ago and is maintained well by the Patankar family.   Mr.Patankar owns  several other properties in & around  Kolhapur,  including two hotels; a Tourist Hotel started by his father six decades ago and  the recently started Hotel Atria, both belonging to Patankar Hospitality Pvt.Ltd, efficiently run by Patankar`s two sons. Hotel Atria where we were put up for a night is a well appointed business hotel with a good ambience and excellent facilities for business travelers.

. A  sumptuous  Maharashtrian dinner was awaiting us  at Patankar`s home on the first night. Listening to Mr. Patankar describe the number of activities that he  has been involved with, covering several businesses including an agricultural farm, apart from  cricket and a few  NGOs , my respect for  him  went up several notches. Such a versatile man, yet  so humble,  he was  humility personified- It was awesome knowing the real Mr.Patankar! His life story can be material for an excellent biography!

The next morning saw us visiting the famous Mahalakshmi temple followed by a visit to Siddhagiri museum which has a display of some famous episodes depicting the achievements of our country in various sciences including Ayurvedha, medicine etc featuring life size sculptures. While these are in a closed environment, the scenes depicting a typical rural life showing craftsmen from more than a dozen occupations are in the open and are very realistic in looks! A quick visit to Kolhapur Palace later with a  scion of the family ( Patankar himself) acting as a guide was a unique experience. The city tour ended at Tourist Hotel where we were treated to another  delicious Maharashtrian lunch.

In the afternoon, after a brief rest we drove to Fort Panhalgad located in the Sahayadri range at a height of 3127 ft, only 20kms away from Kolhapur. Mr.Patankar had arranged for our stay at a Resort  called Hotel Hilltop located at the highest point in the Fort.  

Fort Panahala is well known for the famous historical figure Shivaji, who ruled his kingdom from this fort and also for several lakes, gardens, temples and vantage points of historical importance like Teen Darwaja, Ambarkhana, Rede mahal etc. The legendary singer Latha Mangeshkar  owns a Bungalow in this resort town. We had a  brief visit to a couple of sites  before checking into the Hotel Hill top. Rest of the evening over dinner and in the morning over breakfast we talked & talked- going down memory lane,  sharing  many facets of our  respective lives unknown to the others. This is where I learnt more  about the fascinating story of Patanakar`s life and Mr.Kashyp`s foray into spiritualism during the Nineties and his long journey from being a corporate honcho to become the Father of Rural Marketing. The bonding we felt at the end of the trip is something we will cherish for a life time.  

 The memorable trip came to an end after our breakfast meeting. While Kashyap and  I left for Pune , Mr.Patankar was driving to another resort away from Kolhapur for a family re-union get-together. Before leaving I had persuaded both Patankar & Kashyap to make a sincere attempt to write their memoirs. Hope they will consider my suggestion  seriously. We also resolved to have such re-union get-together every year- the next meet  will be in Chennai/Pondichery to be hosted by me. 

Nothing like meeting old friends and going down memory lane!

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